If you’re thinking of setting up a company in Singapore, in the maritime industry, you’re on the right track. The maritime industry in Singapore is Asia’s gateway to international and regional shores with its strategic location, powered by its best-in-class port facilities and shipyards.
As a premier International Maritime Centre (IMC), it sets the stage for ship hubs, essential ancillary services in shipping, commerce, and logistics to flourish. The Singapore government has put a strong emphasis on the maritime industry, with attractive tax incentives and grants available for businesses. Maritime Port Authority (MPA) is the governing body that oversees all maritime-related activities.
How to Start a Maritime Company in Singapore
There are 4 steps to start your maritime company in Singapore:
TIP: We’ve our very own incorporation platform, iBizFile, where you can upload all your supporting documents to get you started on your incorporation journey – leave the paperwork to us, while you focus on your business!
Look for suitable premises
The next step is to look for rental options in Singapore. There are plenty of options here, so it is important to find one that is cost-efficient and suits your business needs.
Employees are the cornerstone of your business operations – they are the ones who will be working onboard your vessel or office to ensure things are running well. You will need to apply for a valid Port Limit Manning License for those who are working onboard the vessel. If you are looking to hire foreign staff, you will have to also apply for a work permit.
Apply for licenses and permits
Before you can officially start operating your company, there are certain licenses and permits to apply.
Licenses & Permits
The licenses and permits required to operate your maritime and shipping companies are listed below.
Habour Craft License
Issued by the MPA, this license is required if you intend to operate vessels for commercial purposes within Singapore’s port. There are several categories of the Habour Craft Licenses, such as tankers, ferries, barges, etc.
NOTE: To get a Harbor Craft License, the vessel for which the license is for must pass an inspection. You’ll have to make arrangements with the MPA’s One-Stop Document Centre in person, and you’ll have to do this at the very least one week in advance.
Port Clearance Certificate
If you intend for your vessel to depart from port limits, a Port Clearance Certificate will be needed from the MPA. You will also need to apply for this certification 24 hours upon arrival of your vessel in Singapore.
Port Limit Manning License
Every crew member onboard your vessel must hold a valid Port Limited Manning License. There are several different categories of Manning Licenses for the different types of crew members. This license is valid for 5 years.
Ship Registration Certificate
If your business involves the use of ships, it is mandatory for you to register them with the Singapore Registry of Ships. There are a few pre-requisites to satisfy before registering these ships. This will be discussed in detail in the next section.
Launch a New Vessel Permit
For businesses who intend to launch a new vessel that is more than 15m in length, a permit will be required.
Dangerous Goods Permit
Vessels arriving in Singapore transporting dangerous goods, petroleum, or explosives need to apply for a permission granted by the Port Master. This also applies if you intend to discharge these goods in the port.
Ship Sanitation Control Certificate
While this is not mandatory, it is recommended to apply for the Ship Sanitation Control Certificate from the National Environment Agency to ensure that your craft is in a safe and sanitary condition for transporting goods, giving employees and partners confidence in your company.
The company must have a paid-up capital of at least $50,000
The vessel must be self-propelled and a minimum of 1600 GT
Notwithstanding the minimum paid-up capital requirements, the Registrar may in his discretion, waive them provided that the company and/or its related corporation(s) have registered, applied to register, or have informed the Registrar that they will apply to register.
An exemption from the tonnage requirements might also be provided at the registrar’s discretion on a case specific basis, in the case that the vessel is operated or based in Singapore. However, owners must apply for exemption with the registrar.
If the parent company is based in Singapore, is locally owned, and satisfies the minimum, paid-up capital requirement, the vessel may be registered in Singapore.
For tug and barge owning local companies, the paid-up capital will be pegged to 10% of the total value of the first tug or barge, or $50,000, which is the lesser, subject to a minimum of $10,000.
For the Vessel
Ships that are less than 17 years old are typically considered for registration.
Tax Incentives for Maritime Companies in Singapore
While there are plenty for tax incentives for companies in Singapore, there are industry-specific incentives for maritime companies under programmes like Maritime Sector Incentive (MSI).
MSI Approved International Shipping Enterprise Award This incentive aims to encourage international ship owners and operators to start their shipping operations in Singapore.
Benefits Tax exemption on qualifying shipping income for either:
a 10-year renewable period; or
a 5-year non-renewable period, with the option of graduating to the 10-year renewable award at the end of the 5-year period
MSI Maritime Leasing Award This incentive is to encourage businesses to use Singapore as their capital and funding base to finance their vessels and sea containers.
Tax concession for up to 5 years on their qualifying leasing income for ship/ container leasing companies, business trusts or partnerships
Concessionary tax rate of 10% on its qualifying income for an approved manager of the asset-owning company
Full coverage for operating and qualifying finance leases
MSI Shipping-related Support Services Award This incentive aims to promote the growth of ancillary shipping services providers and encourage shipping conglomerates to set up their corporate services function in Singapore.
Benefits Concessionary tax rate of 10% on the incremental income derived from the provision of the following approved shipping-related support services for a 5-year renewable period:
Forward freight agreement trading
Freight forward and logistics services
Corporate services (for business of shipping-related activities)
Withholding Tax (WHT) Exemption
This incentive promotes the growth of the maritime sector. Qualified shipping companies will enjoy WHT exemption on interest and related payments made in respect to the arrangements obtained to finance the purchase or construction of vessels, or the purchase of containers and intermodal equipment.